“Allyship fatigue” is an insult to Black folks who never get to rest
As long as there is white supremacy, being Black will be debilitating.
I’ve been nursing the same headache for over a week and my right eye has been twitching for days on end. My eyes burn as I write this. Sometimes my eyelids feel so heavy it hurts to blink. I might be on the verge of tears, but I honestly can’t even tell anymore. There are times when I don’t even realize I’m crying until I feel the wetness on my face.
Sleep is elusive, it has been for many years now. “Simple” things like getting out of bed, showering, or eating my first meal of the day before the sun begins to set are a constant battle. I’ve come to accept a base level of pain and exhaustion. It radiates behind my eyes like a low hum. It lives in my chest, too. My entire body feels heavy. Every day.
I am not well. I don’t have any diagnoses, but I know what this is. Trauma, depression, anxiety, fatigue. From surviving white supremacy, and capitalism, and fascism, all of the things they beget and the many ways they converge. These forces work together to ensure that people like me will never be rested or “healthy.”
The more I have learned about white supremacy and how it operates, the worse my afflictions have gotten. I am becoming more and more unwell. Constant waves of anti-Blackness leave me feeling simultaneously emptied and overflowing with emotion. I know that many of, if not all, the Black people I love can relate.
This week, I read about “allyship fatigue.” Apparently, white folks are tired of being anti-racist now. They are feeling stretched too thin after less than a month of actively fighting racism. They signed some petitions, they posted black boxes on social media, they made some donations, they shared videos of police misconduct and brutality, they went to a few protests and made clever or poignant signs.
Some even joined in with abolitionist calls to defund the police. Others loudly demanded the arrest of Breonna Taylor’s killers. Some read books, or at least started to. Some joined mailing lists and followed a slew of Black journalists and creators on social media. Some issued apologies for not doing any of this before. Maybe some did a bit more, maybe some did a bit less.
They’ve been in solidarity with Black people, many for the first time in their entire lives, for barely three weeks. And now they have “allyship fatigue.” I don’t know who coined this term. I don’t know why or to what end, and I really don’t care to. What I do know is that it’s a term that attempts to center white people and white feelings in the conversation about demanding an end to Black genocide.
Of course it makes us tired to fight oppression. White supremacy makes it so. It helps ensure that we have less time and less energy to be able to do it. Of course it’s tiring to dedicate yourself to a cause for other people’s lives. That’s what happens when you allow yourself to find and feel empathy.
“Allyship fatigue” really just feels like an unnecessary term to coin and utilize, especially right now. It seems like yet another way of coddling white people, to talk softly to them and hold their hand through this rather than just letting them fully feel what is barely even a modicum of what has been gripping Black folks for centuries.
It’s an insult to Black folks who will never not be exhausted. What we feel is beyond bodily fatigue, it’s spiritual collapse. We have no choice but to feel it and to keep pushing through it for our own survival and with hope that we can one day thrive. Black people have no choice but to fight, and our fight begins before we are even old enough to fully grasp the systemic oppressions we experience and it will last for our entire lives.
White people should also feel like they have no choice but to fight. They should feel responsible and duty-bound to resolve what they unfairly benefit from. But they don’t feel this responsibility, and it’s why they are so eager to embrace a term like “allyship fatigue” to make themselves into sufferers for doing what they should have always been doing.
As long as there is white supremacy, being Black will be debilitating. White supremacy literally impacts our water, our air, our soil. We live and die in the clutches of capitalism, environmental racism, medical racism, scientific racism, socio-economic disparity, food apartheid. Each of these tools of white supremacy steals our energy, directly impacts our bodies, and leaves us drained. This is by design.
We carry our mental scars with us through our day and in our work. We drag ourselves out from wherever we lay our heads and we carry these scars with us to the protests, as we riot, as we write, as we educate, as we organize. This, too, impacts our physical health. This, too, is by design.
Black people don’t have time to rest. White supremacy and its agents do not want us to. And because of that, we will never be able to achieve “health.” Living under the constant pollution of white supremacy is debilitating. We’re literally trying to eradicate genocide while surviving it. Forgive me if I don’t have any fucks left to give about white people being tired.